A VIG­I­LANTE BURNED THE WRONG HOUSE

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

AN ECHUCA vig­i­lante ter­ri­fied an in­no­cent teenager af­ter break­ing into the wrong home look­ing for an ice dealer dur­ing an al­co­hol-fu­elled rage, a court has been told.

But it didn’t stop there — al­legedly set­ting a fire in the lounge room be­fore flee­ing and mis­tak­enly tar­get­ing an­other house.

Aaron Brooke, 35, ap­peared in cus­tody at Echuca Mag­is­trates Court on Tues­day, where he was re­fused bail.

He is charged with ag­gra­vated bur­glary (per­son present) and crim­i­nal dam­age by fire (ar­son).

De­tec­tive Se­nior Con­sta­ble Dar­ren Dean of Echuca Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit told the court af­ter con­sum­ing three-quar­ters of a 700ml bot­tle of Vodka on Mon­day morn­ing, Brooke de­cided to ‘‘be­come a vig­i­lante and deal with peo­ple around town deal­ing in ice’’.

Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Dean said Brooke texted some friends to get the ad­dresses of known ice deal­ers, one of which was in Crossen St.

‘‘He was told to go to the last unit on the left-hand side. This was wrong,’’ he said.

About 3pm, Brooke al­legedly started yelling ob­scen­i­ties out the front of the unit be­fore walk­ing in and yelling ‘‘come out you weak mon­grel’’ and ‘‘I’m go­ing to kill you’’.

‘‘A 17-year-old boy, who was in the shower, was pet­ri­fied and re­mained in there un­til he heard the door close and as­sumed he’d left,’’ Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Dean said.

‘‘He went into the lounge and dis­cov­ered a fire had been set with var­i­ous cat­a­logues and pa­pers on the cof­fee table. He used the towel around him­self to ex­tin­guish the fire.’’

Two hours later, Brooke al­legedly tried to break into an­other house in Pas­coe St, but an al­ter­ca­tion oc­curred on the porch be­tween him and the oc­cu­pant, a man in his 40s.

‘‘He was search­ing for a per­son but again got the lo­ca­tion wrong,’’ Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Dean said.

Brooke ended up with a lac­er­a­tion to his fore­head, re­quir­ing three stitches, and an in­jury to his leg from a dog bite.

He was ar­rested in the street soon af­ter and taken to Echuca po­lice sta­tion, where Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Dean said he made full ad­mis­sions and was re­manded in cus­tody overnight.

‘‘He said, in an al­co­hol-fu­elled de­sire to deal with ice deal­ers and an al­leged per­son who had stolen from a friend of his he had taken it upon him­self to deal with it,’’ he said.

Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Dean told the court Brooke’s ‘‘down­hill spi­ral’’ started af­ter he dis­cov­ered his for­mer part­ner and mother to his two-year-old son was en­gaged.

He said Brooke’s at­ti­tude and tak­ing too many sick days at work led to Sim­plot ceas­ing his em­ploy­ment at the fac­tory un­til he had a psy­cho­log­i­cal as­sess­ment.

‘‘He says he has de­pres­sion and al­co­holism and my con­cern is that leav­ing here he will be tempted to con­sume al­co­hol which will fuel his quite un­con­trol­lable anger,’’ Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Dean said.

‘‘He told a staff mem­ber last night he was lucky not to be able to ac­cess the firearms his dad has at his house, oth­er­wise it would have been a dif­fer­ent story.

‘‘He’s in a state of mind that if he has ac­cess to al­co­hol he’s not in con­trol of mak­ing good and proper de­ci­sions.’’

Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Dean said there were no bail con­di­tions that would al­lay his fears of Brooke re­of­fend­ing.

Rep­re­sent­ing him­self in the dock, Brooke agreed Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Dean’s state­ments were fair, but said he was a good fa­ther, loved his fam­ily and was ex­tremely re­morse­ful.

‘‘I’m ab­so­lutely scared stiff of where this is go­ing,’’ he said.

‘‘I wasn’t think­ing straight at all. I got fed up with the drug­gies get­ting away with things; steal­ing money from a sin­gle fa­ther of three. It’s just not on.’’

Brooke told mag­is­trate Pa­trick Southey he planned to live with his par­ents if he was re­leased on bail, but his fa­ther — who was in court — said he would not take him.

‘‘It sounds like your par­ents, who ob­vi­ously love you and sup­port you, are at their wit’s end,’’ Mr Southey said.

‘‘You don’t have any­where to live and you haven’t shown com­pelling rea­sons (to be re­leased on bail). The risks of you re-of­fend­ing in an alarm­ing way aren’t mis­placed. Bail is re­fused.

‘‘This is a se­ri­ous charge that has to go up to the County Court and you may well be look­ing at a jail sen­tence.’’

Brooke was re­manded in cus­tody to ap­pear at Bendigo Mag­is­trates Court on Fe­bru­ary 6 for a com­mit­tal men­tion.

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